SPAWNING

2021 FORT PECK

Warden John Huberty doubling up with a good-sized walleye and northern pike from a productive trap net.
Fish culturist Ryan Lott with a big channel catfish from a trap net.
A batch of walleye eggs water hardening.

April 18th

It’s been a crazy roller coaster ride over the last several days at the walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck Reservoir! Water surface temperatures on Thursday ranged from 35 to 40 degrees, but quickly warmed to 47 degrees throughout our trap netting locations on Saturday. This prompted walleye to start cruising the shorelines once again in an attempt to spawn.

We were only able to bring in 16 ripe on Thursday and 27 ripe female walleye from our trap nets on Friday due to the cooler water temperatures. We did manage to collect a few more ripe females from the holding pens and hold two small egg-takes that yielded roughly 7 million eggs over these two days. However, we collected nearly 130 ripe female walleye as temperatures were approaching 47 degrees on Saturday. Region 6 FWP staff was literally up to their elbows in walleye as we collected a little over 17 million eggs in one day!

These three egg collection efforts rapidly pushed our egg total to approximately 74 million eggs for the season. This second pulse in walleye numbers and eggs collected will provide enough eggs to stock the Fort Peck and Miles City rearing ponds once they hatch into fry. These walleye fry will eventually turn into fingerling walleye that will be used to meet statewide stocking requests here in Montana.

Thanks to those who followed along and tracked the progress of this annual effort. Best of luck fishing to everyone this upcoming season!

Fisheries technician Josh Janecek with a nice green female walleye collected from one of the trap nets.
Snowy day of sorting through green female walleye in the holding pens

April 13th

Well, the weather has taken a turn for the worse in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Temperatures have dropped as snow flurries and gusty winds have really mixed the water. Water surface temperatures on Sunday were hovering in the upper 40’s to 50 degree range, but quickly plummeted to 35 degrees where some of our trap nets are located. As you might imagine, this has put a damper on the walleye spawning activity.

We’ve still been able to collect a few walleye, but numbers have really dropped off compared to what we were seeing several days ago when water temperatures were more favorable. Some of our best trap nets were capturing upwards of 40 female walleye (combination of green and ripe) along with numerous males, and now we’re only collecting around a dozen or so walleye total from those same nets.

The good news is we’ve managed to hold two more egg-takes since the last update. Sunday, when water temperatures were still warm and ideal, we collected 8.7 million eggs.  We were unable to spawn on Monday, but we collected 6.1 million eggs today (Tuesday). These two egg collections should bring the total close to 50 million eggs. The weather forecast looks like it will stay cool for the next few days, but we’ll continue to plug along in hopes of collecting a few more eggs.

A VERY large egg-laden female walleye being weighed and measured.
BJ Kemp with a big green female walleye
Transporting a tank full of walleye to the holding pens and barges.

April 10th

We’ve continued to stay busy with the walleye trap netting and egg-taking operation on Fort Peck Reservoir. For the most part, the weather has cooperated and water surface temperatures are averaging in the upper 40’s to low 50’s throughout our trap netting locations. These water temperatures have allowed us to get our hands on some very nice-sized walleye still in spawning mode.

We’re continuing to capture good numbers of male and female walleye, but the spawning condition of females seems to have shifted slightly to fewer greens and more ripes. We captured 56 green and 37 female walleye on Wednesday. Today (Saturday), we collected 49 green and 60 ripe female walleye. The high number of ripe female walleye from the trap nets, along with those that ripened in the holding pens, have allowed us to hold three more egg-takes since the last update:

Thursday – 9.8 million

Friday – 4.3 million

Saturday – 7.4 million

This should give us roughly 35 million eggs for the season which is very encouraging this early on in our efforts. However, the weather forecast doesn’t look very promising the next several days as cold front will be moving into the area with gusty winds… It will be interesting to see how cold things will get and if it will negatively influence the walleye spawning activity.

April 7th

Fish culturist, Ryan Lott with a large northern pike
Sergeant, Todd Tryan with a BIG green female walleye collected from one the trap nets

Wow… the weather we’ve experienced over the past few days have led to some very busy, but productive days for the walleye spawning operation on Fort Peck Reservoir. Temperatures have warmed a bit more, and we’re still seeing water temperatures ranging from 49-52 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. These favorable temperatures have really kicked walleye spawning activity into high gear in terms of numbers and spawning condition of the walleye we’re capturing.

We’ve still been seeing good numbers of males and green female walleye, but we’re also seeing a bump in numbers of ripe female walleye captured. In fact, we had one EXTREMELY productive trap net that contained 21 green and 20 ripe female walleye in it along with numerous males. Other trap nets are continuing to capture good numbers of walleye as well. Thanks to the increase in ripe female walleye numbers, we’ve been able to hold three egg-takes since the last update. On Monday we collected 4.8 million eggs, Tuesday we collected 4.5 million eggs, and we collected approximately 4.5 million more eggs today. This should put us somewhere around 14 million eggs for the season thus far. Let’s hope we can keep this momentum going. Stay tuned for more updates on trap net catches and up-to-date egg numbers.

April 4th

Fisheries technician, Jeff Remus with one of the first green female walleye of the season.
Scoop full of male walleye collected from a trap net.

It’s official, the 2021 walleye trap netting and egg collection is underway on Fort Peck Reservoir. Early ice-off has allowed us to get our spawning barges, holding pens, and a few trap nets in the water. However, we’ve had to relocate some of our equipment and nets due to lower reservoir elevations. Water levels are approximately 2 feet lower than last year at this time. The good news though is water temperatures have been warming over the last three days of checking trap nets. Water temperatures earlier in the week were in the upper 30’s and as of this afternoon, temperatures were hovering around 50 degrees in the shallower areas where some our trap nets are located.

The warming spell we’ve experienced over the last few days have signaled a few walleye to cruise the shorelines and make their way into our trap nets. As with the beginning of every walleye spawn, male walleye have been more abundant. That pattern seems to hold true once again, but we have captured a few green (not releasing eggs) females as well. In fact, we collected 24 green females on Saturday and that number doubled to 50 green female walleye today. This is an encouraging sign. If this pattern continues, we should start to see some of those green female walleye ripen up (release eggs) and possibly hold our first egg-take of the year in the upcoming days.

Hopefully everyone was able to get out, enjoy the weather this weekend, and have a happy Easter!

2019 FORT PECK

April 26th

The weather has remained favorable in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Water surface temperatures have continued to hover in the low to mid-50’s throughout our trap netting locations. However, numbers of spawning walleye appear to be dwindling. It also looks like nasty cold front is headed our way this weekend with rain/snow mix and high winds.

Nearly all female walleye captured over the last several days have either been ripe or spent. Very few greens have been collected. Our holding pens which were holding over 100 green females a week ago, have now dropped down to only 20 green females that don’t seem to be ripening up. In addition, numbers of ripe female walleye have continued to become more scarce over the past few days.

We’ve managed to hold a small egg-take each day since the last update. These small egg-takes have averaged close to 2.5 million eggs each time. However, we only managed to capture 7 ripe female walleye today (4-26) for only a million more eggs. This should bring the total to approximately 63 million eggs for the season. With us meeting our goal of 60 million eggs and declining numbers of spawning walleye, we’ve decided to call it a season. On behalf of the fisheries and hatchery staff at Fort Peck, I’d like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with this years efforts. It was greatly appreciated and best of luck fishing this year!

April 22nd

The weather has remained stable in the Big Dry Arm area of Fort Peck Reservoir and water temperatures have really warmed since the last update. Water surface temperatures are now ranging from 50 to 57 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. It appears these warmer water temperatures have really kicked walleye spawning activity into high gear.

Most trap nets seem to be catching decent numbers of walleye, but there are definitely some trap nets that have been more productive than others. In fact, one trap net captured 24 ripe females, 12 green females, 13 males, and 8 spent females (released eggs) in one day. It appears we have neared the peak and may actually be headed on the downhill slide of things based on some of the high proportion of ripe females and more spent females starting to show up.

The high numbers of ripe female walleye have allowed us to collect a good number of eggs over the last several days. We’ve held three more egg-takes since the last update which will give us another 14 million more eggs. This should bring the total to 52 million eggs. It looks like we’ll continue our efforts throughout the week in hopes of gathering a few more eggs, but it’s quite possible things could start winding down in the near future.

April 19th

Jason Kemp and Jack Morehouse
Don Schleglemilch and Doug Voit

Weather conditions have remained favorable for the most part in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Other than a few small showers that passed through the area, temperatures have remained steady and increased slightly. Water surface temperatures are now ranging from 46 to 52 degrees throughout our trap netting locations. This means we’ve observed an increase in walleye spawning activity.

Numbers of walleye per net have seemed to increase throughout our trap netting area. By the looks of things we could be nearing the “peak” of the spawn based on the proportion of ripes vs. green female walleye collected. There are definitely a good amount of greens being collected but more ripe female walleye seem to be showing up in our trap nets than earlier on when water temperatures were cooler.

Thanks to the good number of ripe walleye collected and green females that ripened in the holding pens, we’ve managed to hold three more egg-takes since the last update. And they’ve been good some pretty good-sized ones. On Wednesday we collected close 5 million eggs, Thursday we collected almost 9 million eggs, and today (Friday) we collected close to 7 million more eggs. This gives us roughly 21 million eggs over the last three days and should put us somewhere around 38 million total eggs so far. Let’s hope we can keep this momentum going!

Photo: Don Schlegelmilch and Doug Voigt transferring to green females to the holding pens to ripen up.

Photo: Jaxson Kemp and Jack Morehouse with a BIG green female captured. Great job guys and thanks for the help!

April 16th

The weather has continued to cooperate for us in the Big Dry Arm area of Fort Peck Reservoir. We’ve been ramping up our efforts and setting more trap nets in search for spawning walleye. Water temperatures have steadily increased to 50 degrees in some of the shallow areas of our trap netting locations.

It appears numbers of walleye captured per net have increased as well with the warming water temperatures. We’re continuing to see some good numbers of male walleye (and some big ones up to 26 inches) along with better numbers of green and ripe female walleye. Thanks to the increased numbers of ripe female walleye collected and greens that have ripened up in the holding pens, we’ve been able to hold three more egg-takes since the last update.

On Sunday we collected 3.3 million, Monday we collected 4.2, and today we collected another 7.1 million more eggs. With these egg-takes, we’ve brought out total to approximately 17.5 million eggs. In addition, we’re also holding close to 100 green female walleye in our holding pens waiting to ripen up. This is encouraging news as the weather forecast looks promising for most of the week so let’s hope we can keep things rolling!

Photo: Fynn Sukut with a nice green female captured from one of the trap nets.

Photo: Hunter and Scott Collinsworth doing some walleye wrangling with a HEFTY green female walleye.

Photo: A trap net with walleye tails for days!

4/13/2019

It’s official, the 2019 walleye trap netting and egg collection is underway on Fort Peck Reservoir. The ice has finally receded and we’ve managed to get our gear in the water. Over the last couple of days, we’ve been able to get our spawning barges, holding pens, and some trap nets in the water to begin our operation. Today was actually our third day of checking nets and things have looked promising so far.

Temperatures have been relatively cool throughout our trap netting locations and there are even a few areas where sheets of ice remain along the shoreline. Water surface temperatures have been ranging from 40 to 47 degrees in the Big Dry Arm area with the more shallow areas holding the warmer water. As a result, we’ve seen some walleye spawning activity starting to occur. We’ve been able to capture some decent numbers of male walleye, which seems to be a typically pattern early in the spawning phase, along with some green (holding eggs) and an occasionally ripe (releasing eggs) female.

Due to a few ripe female walleye captured in trap nets and few that have ripened in our holding pens, we were able to hold our first egg-take of the season today. We ended up spawning 25 female walleyes that yielded roughly 10 quarts of eggs giving us close to 2.5 million eggs. While this isn’t a huge amount of eggs at the moment, it’s a small step towards our goal for the season. The weather forecast looks promising over the next few days which should help with the walleye spawning activity.

Photo: Todd Young and BJ Kemp with two dandy green female walleye collected while checking trap nets

Photo:  Ryan Lott collecting eggs from one of the first ripe female walleye of the season.

Photo:  A pan of walleye eggs being fertilized and gently mixed with feathers.

Heath Headley

Fisheries Biologist

Fisheries Division

[fwp.mt.gov]Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Region 6


Upcoming Events

  1. Crooked Creek Walleye Classic

    May 15 - May 16
  2. Rock Creek Tournament

    June 5 - June 6
  3. Fresno Challenge

    June 12 - June 13
  4. Canyon Ferry Walleye Fest

    June 26 - June 27
  5. Montana Walleye Gov Cup

    July 8 - July 11

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